Whilst MS affects roughly three times as many women than men, recently released prevalence figures indicate that nearly 8000 men in Australia deal with MS on a daily basis. (1)
Research also indicates that the more severe and less treatable form of the condition – Primary progressive MS (PPMS), affects more men than women.
Alongside this, it’s important to factor in that unfortunately, “men are more reluctant to go to the doctor – and less likely to be honest once they get there.” (2) This means that diagnosis of conditions such as MS can be delayed, which can lead to worsening of symptoms and MS progressing further before help and treatment is sought.
Mental health is of a particular concern, as depression is a common symptom that people with MS experience. There are also significant other symptoms that need to be managed, such as incontinence and sexual function. Because of the sensitive nature of these symptoms, men may be hesitant to discuss them with medical professionals.
Thankfully campaigns such as Movember and mental health focussed organisations like Beyond Blue and R U Ok?, have helped to tackle perceived taboo topics and elevate men’s health to a higher community profile.
This year’s Men’s Health Week theme is “Making Healthy Connections.”, and as stated on their website, “The idea of producing health services that work for men and boys is gaining traction and acceptance around the world.”
Men’s Health Week believe that there are three key ways to get men and boys involved in health programs: structuring your program, promoting your event and providing health information. You can read more here.
Another organisation, MENGAGE Male Health Clearinghouse have compiled some examples of programs that appear to work well in engaging men and boys in health. Men’s Health Week also have some sobering statistics about men’s health checks, and what happens when men don’t take their health and wellbeing seriously.
The Movember website states that, “70% of men say their friends can rely on them for support, but only 48% say that they rely on their friends. In other words: we’re here for our mates, but worried about asking for help for ourselves. Reaching out is crucial.” You can’t overestimate the power of connecting with others, being able to check in, catch up, and make time.
Contact your local State/territory MS organisation to find out about any relevant peer or online support groups within your community.
1. New data to be published from the Menzies Institute for Medical research April 2018 – Economic Impact of MS in Australia in 2018 Report currently in preparation.